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Choice board approves mid-year budget cuts and prepares to cut $1.2 million from personnel in 2013-14

Choice Foundation will have a smaller than expected surplus at the end of this fiscal year.

Mid-year budget revisions discussed at the board’s May 15 meeting put the final surplus at about $257,400 — 29 percent less than originally planned.

Choice, the board that oversees Lafayette Academy, Esperanza Charter School and McDonogh 42 Elementary, had smaller than planned revenue from local grants and state per pupil funding, Chief Operating Officer James Fulton said.

The per pupil funding changes resulted in a $101,400 loss at Lafayette and $60,000 cut at McDonogh 42.

Choice also charged a charter management operator fee of $500 per student, which went toward central office budget. At Esperanza and McDonogh 42, the fees totaled $311,600.

Fulton told The Lens that Choice gave McDonogh 42, in its first year operated by Choice, a $60,000 discount on these fees so as not to “cripple” the school’s budget.

At Lafayette, about $374,200 of the budget was earmarked for central management, but Fulton said the organization credited the school for that money since the district office is housed at Lafayette’s campus this year.

The mid-year revisions passed unanimously.

Treasurer Fritz Gomila presented a $18.3 million proposed operating budget for 2013-14.

Executive Director Mickey Landry described the proposed spending plan as a “hypothermia budget, where you cut the extremities to preserve the core.”

The budget calls for more than $1.2 million in cuts directly targeting personnel expenses. The board plans to vote on its 2013-14 budget in June.


May’s meeting was the first since March, when Choice’s decision to sue the architecture firm contracted for the board’s planned headquarters was discussed at length. Board chair Jim Huger reported that a conference for mediation had been set with Sizeler Thompson Brown, and that if this is not successful the foundation will pursue arbitration.

Board member and attorney Jim Swanson is representing Choice with firm Fishman Haygood Phelps Walmsley Willis & Swanson.

“Fishman Haygood has been so good to this foundation and we couldn’t do this without them,” Huger said. “Jim [Swanson] and his whole team always come to the rescue of Choice.”

Board member Alysson Mills is also an attorney at the firm.

Three board members will be leaving the board come June. Huger announced that Fitz Gomila is going to chair the board for Trinity Episcopal School. And J. Storey Charbonnet and Steven Serio also will be leaving the board, though no one said why during the meeting.

Board members voted unanimously to add Pierre Conner to the board to replace Gomila. Conner is a banker with Capitol One.

The meeting was held at McDonogh 42, and lasted two hours. Board members J. Storey Charbonnet, Donald E. Beery, William J. Goliwas Jr., Wendy J. Lodrig, Kevin Kane and Laura Sillars were not in attendance.

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